After Death — What? By Leoline L. Wright
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Section 2

Chapter 4: Devachan, the Heaven-World

Chapter 5: Can We Communicate with Our "Dead"?

Chapter 6: A Glance Backward

Chapter 7: Death and the Monad

Section 3

Chapter 8: Peregrinations of the Monad
Chapter 9: Value of These Teachings
Chapter 10: Death and Rebirth
Chapter 11: Some Questions Answered

Return to Section 1


Chapter 4

Devachan, the Heaven World

The "roseate beauty" of the heaven world are the words of a teacher which will give us an opening glimpse into what theosophy tells us of devachan. By devachan is meant that state of being into which the reincarnating ego — what is popularly called the soul — is gradually withdrawn at the completion of the sifting process of the second death. The following passage defines devachan more closely:

[Tibetan, bde-ba-can, pronounced de-wa-chen] A translation of the Sanskrit sukhavati, the "happy place" or god-land. It is the state between earth-lives into which the human entity, the human monad, enters and there rests in bliss and repose. . . .
Devachan is the fulfilling of all the unfulfilled spiritual hopes of the past incarnation, and an efflorescence of all the spiritual and intellectual yearnings of the past incarnation which . . . have not had an opportunity for fulfillment. It is a period of unspeakable bliss and peace for the human soul, until it has finished its rest time and stage of recuperation of its own energies. — G. de Purucker, Occult Glossary

Who has not, in looking back over his life, seen most if not all of his best dreams unrealized? Beginning with those ideals of youth which fade so quickly in "the light of common day," there follow our dreams of dear companionship never found, of musical, literary, scientific, or humanitarian achievement towards which we have aspired, but which we have either failed to reach or have had no opportunity even of trying for. And there are the things we have longed to do for those we loved, but have been too poor or too busy to undertake.

These desires are the best part of us. More than this, they are energies, all the more cumulative and powerful for being denied expression while silently cherished. Being energies they must have somewhere their fruition, and that fruition will naturally take place in the nature which originated them. It is these energies which create for us the conditions of the god-world, the heaven-world — devachan. We have seen that man's baser mental desires have helped by his own unconscious activity to build the conditions of his state of consciousness while in kama-loka, which surrounds this planet with a mental-emotional atmosphere. Likewise have his higher thoughts, yearnings, and aspirations towards spiritual self-expression built up his devachan, which is the state of consciousness where these higher energies surround him and bring to him his spiritual fruition in joy and beauty and peace.

Having come this far we may be led to imagine that devachan resembles the heaven of the Christian religion. But there are in reality radical differences. First, theosophy teaches that human creative evolution can be accomplished only through rebirth upon earth. The period of devachan does not initiate any new lines of development; it merely brings to fruition the spiritual aspects of the experiences originated in past lives. Therefore devachan is but a temporary state of being. Moreover, it is itself merely an extension — a subjective expansion — of the karma of the past life of the ego. For the character of the devachan, the beauty, happiness, and length of its episodes, will be the unfoldment of only those spiritual thoughts and desires which were felt by the ego during its earth-life.

We have pointed out elsewhere the similarity between sleep and death. Sleep, theosophy tells us — and we repeat it for emphasis — sleep is an imperfect death; death is a complete and perfect sleep. So death, like sleep, must be followed by an awakening to a fresh period of activity in earth-life. And herein lies of course the greatest difference between devachan and the Christian heaven.

But there is another striking resemblance which death bears to sleep. In sleep we dream, and our dreams are peopled by those we know; they are filled with experiences of many kinds, all quite as vivid and absorbing while they last as those of waking life. In dreams we often exercise faculties and graces that we lack in this workaday world. We perhaps paint pictures, or play some loved instrument with skill. There are people who can play a musical instrument in their dreams who have no knowledge of it in their waking life. Or we may meet interesting new friends or travel into undiscovered country. These dreams, good or bad as the case may be, result from our daily thoughts and desires working themselves out in this way when the mind has relaxed its check-rein.

Death, being but a longer, more complete sleep, is also a time of dreams. But whereas our dreams at night are often troubled, after death they are all consoling and beautiful. For we have sloughed off the lower parts of us where nightmare miasmas and suffering arise. Those lower elements have been dissipated at the second death. There is nothing left within us to suffer, for we are living then in the light and purity of the harmonious realms of spirit. And over us is the divine aegis of the spiritual self.

Here however we must note again that

in the heaven-world, in Devachan, you will get precisely what you have built into your own character, which is equivalent to saying what you longed for in the way of spiritual recuperation and peace and bliss.
In these few sentences lies the secret meaning of the heaven-world and the nature of its functioning and of what happens to the resting ego. It is, therefore, perfectly obvious that a man, on the one hand, whose whole nature is of materialistic bent or bias, whose thoughts are of the earth earthy, and whose instincts impel him to things of matter, will remain but a short time in the heaven-world for he has built little into his character which will keep him in the heaven-world for a long period of time: whereas a man, on the other hand, whose whole nature is of a spiritual type, who has received but little spiritual joy and peace and rest in the busy turmoil of physical existence and whose nature therefore is entirely unsatisfied along these lines, will pass a long time in the heaven-world; for the entire impulses of the heart-hunger of his being cling to what the resting ego there undergoes and receives. — G. de Purucker, Questions We All Ask, Series 1, No. 12

The period passed in devachan lasts, as an average, for fifteen hundred years. But the rule for the individual is one hundred years in the devachan for every year of life on earth. A man dying at fifty will thus pass 5,000 years in devachan; at eighty, 8,000 years of heaven-life, and so on. The low average of 1,500 years is due to the very large percentage who, because of their materialistic natures, build within themselves no foundation for the spiritual joys of devachan and therefore are not able to remain long apart from reincarnation on earth.

Here it may be well to remind ourselves that there is a marked difference between the bad and the merely materialistic person. It is only the truly evil, those who through selfishness or sensuality have willfully harmed others, who must suffer in kama-loka. There are many well-meaning and honest people who live only for their personal interests and pleasures. Such do not suffer in the kama-loka, having wrought no conscious harm; but neither can they experience the blissful conditions of self-expression and self-realization of the heaven-world. How can they, when they have laid no foundation for it in themselves? And further, we are glad to remember that even those who undergo the mental sufferings of kama-loka reach the end of that condition when the energies they have stored up run low, and then they fall into the state of unconsciousness which leads to a rebirth upon earth. And in reincarnation, through meeting in their own surroundings the misery they have inflicted upon others, they will come to understand what selfishness means, and so have the chance to grow out of evil into sympathy and compassion.

Coming back to an earlier viewpoint of this subject, we may again remind ourselves that life after death is not a state of existence cut off by an abyss from ourselves as we are today. Afterdeath states are merely: first, the dissolution of our physical-astral, and then our lower mental and emotional, consciousness-centers; second, when that is completed, life itself is continued on a higher level than we know it now and in the unimpeded activity of our spiritual natures in conditions where they can for the first time truly unfold and fulfill themselves.

Fear of death is due to wrong education, which has given us no vision of a life beyond death which stands in logical or normal relation to what we know or experience here on earth. But theosophy shows us the thread of continuity which runs through the experiences of the individual in all worlds, while demonstrating the interrelation of the invisible worlds with the world in which we are living today.

. . . Remember that when you lie down to sleep on your bed you die a little death. This will cast out fear from your hearts when you realize its truth. Death will thus become familiar to you. The thought of death will become friendly; and when your time comes to die you will die gladly and you will die with a will. I repeat that death and sleep are one. Sleep is an imperfect, incomplete death; and death is an absolute, perfect, complete sleep; but sleep and death are essentially one process of change. — G. de Purucker, Questions We All Ask, Series II, No. 19

Chapter 5

Can We Communicate with Our "Dead"?

Our old childish conceptions of heaven and hell sprang from ignorance of our true nature, and of the nature of the universe to which we belong. "Heaven," it is well to repeat for emphasis, is not a place but a state of being, of consciousness. And our heaven is not a reward, as already shown, but a natural outcome of what we have made of ourselves. And the same for "hell" or kama-loka, which similarly is not a punishment but a consequence of our actions while on earth.

Perhaps someone, to whom the theosophical idea of the heaven-world is still unfamiliar, may ask: "But what about those I love? Am I not going to have them actually with me after death?" How little we understand ourselves, or know where lie our deeper needs! Think of a husband, an old man who has lost an aged wife, his companion through long years of joy and sorrow. How will he wish to find her in the heaven-world if she is to be actually her very self, present there with him? Shall it be as the young and beautiful helpmate of his youth, or as the feeble but beloved partner of his declining years? Will that not be a difficulty for him if heaven is to be the place of literal actuality that he demands? And the mother: will the son she has lost in childhood be a child still, or shall he perchance have grown out of her recognition? These are logical questions springing out of the conception of heaven as merely a place, and of our loved ones merely as the physical personalities we remember so fondly. But a human being is not a personality. He is a spiritual being using the personality as an instrument for acquiring experience.

. . . Man is an embryo god locked in sheaths of emotion and thought and feeling, swathed in crippling inner veils in their turn garmented in a body of flesh; and it is to recall men to a realization of the divine light within, the divine spirit within: it is to teach men to transcend and outrange these encircling veils and crippling shackles, that we Theosophists teach and preach and write, and do our best to pass on to others what we ourselves have found to be so fine.
Man, know thyself, said the Delphic Oracle, for in knowing thyself, thou shalt know the Universe. — G. de Purucker, Lucifer, May, 1933, pp. 488-9

The idea that in heaven we shall find our friends actually as they were with us in this life is a materialistic conception springing directly from those personal ideas which help to make the veils and crippling shackles above referred to. If we will study the spiritual nature within us, which is the only permanent part of ourselves, we shall realize that a true heaven-world can have little in common with the personalities of ourselves and our friends; for it is from the faults and limitations of our own and others' personalities that spring our heaviest trials.

Devachan is above all a place of rest. It is the "sleep" of the ego in which — paralleling the sleep of the body — it assimilates what it has taken in of knowledge and experience during the earth-life just passed through.

Now if we look back over our lives we discover that those things which have tried and disappointed us most have sprung from our human relationships. The troubles originating merely from environment, such as early handicaps, lack of money, or opportunity of various kinds, have in many cases proved stimulating and have often brought forth the best that was in us. It is people who wear us down. A mother, for example, who has passed long, heart-breaking years of struggle to reform a wayward son, and who fails at last — how can she rest after death if she is to be reunited to his turbulent nature? And he, if he has been leading a half-criminal existence, with strong animal desires and indulgences, how can he exist with her in the devachan? He has built up no heaven-world for himself. Instead, he will pass through a period of unrest in kama-loka, falling asleep finally to be reborn on earth. And as his mother has earned a long and blissful rest in the devachan, while he has not, he will perhaps be reincarnated long before she is, and, learning and developing through suffering the consequences of misdeeds in his past life, will perhaps meet her again in a later incarnation as a better and more loving child. Thus the true-hearted mother will receive her reward; for in devachan all her dreams for that boy will be realized and she will experience the joy of seeing her loving sacrifices reach their fruition in his character. And because love is the most penetrating and creative energy in the universe, and because we do have a deep inner communion with our dead, her joy in seeing his reformation accomplished will reach him wherever he is and be perhaps a more powerful influence for good — because it will work unconsciously upon him — than her living presence with its possibly irritating restraints. For there are some dreams which are more potent than so-called realities.

No, nature is wise and wholly compassionate. She protects us, while we are at rest in the heaven-world, from all outside and disturbing influences. She releases us from our emotional demands and cravings while healing our bruised and weary hearts. And when the interval of recuperation is over we are reborn on earth, uniting with those who belong to us in fresh relationships, for higher opportunities and further growth.

These thoughts lead us naturally to a consideration of the subject of "communication" with the dead. But here we are not referring to the various types of such so-called communications obtained in the seance room. Theosophy denies that these are true messages from the spiritual selves of our departed. It has already been explained that the kama-loka, which intermingles in its various phases, higher and lower, with the thought-atmosphere of our world, is thickly populated with the kama-rupas or shells of those who have just died. These shells are also called elementaries, and again spooks.

To recapitulate: the shell is the double or replica, in appearance and apparent character, of the personality that was. It retains, as will a glove that is thrown aside, the impress of the one who has so long used it. And these shells, being made of life-atoms, may reproduce not only the lineaments but the very habits and mental characteristics of the departed. This is possible because they are instinct with automatic memories of the past lives of those who have discarded them at death. For that is exactly what they are, automata; and like automata they are unconscious of themselves unless galvanized so often by mediums that they are awakened to a false and dangerous vitality. But as a rule the messages they give off at the vitalizing urge of mediums and "sitters" are but the phantom-echo of a voice whose owner has departed. The ego which has sloughed off these astral-psychological garments is awaiting the second death and the hour when it can enter the bliss of devachan. This blessed hour of release for the ego is delayed if its kama-rupic shell is kept intact when it should be mercifully disintegrating.

There may be a yet worse effect from these psychic practices. A false and dangerous liaison between the decaying shell and the unfortunate relatives of the departed can be brought about by the medium and the activities during seance, resulting in unhappy karmic consequences for all concerned. Theosophy warns that all necromantic practices open the door into a psychic charnel-house, the exhalations of which are far more unwholesome and dangerous to mankind than those from the abodes of the physically dead. For the first time in centuries theosophy restores to the Western world that philosophy and science of spiritual sanitation by which this noxious psychology may be purged from our life.

Theosophy repudiates so-called "communication with the dead." H. P. Blavatsky in The Key to Theosophy, when discussing the difference between theosophy and spiritualism, wrote:

. . . They [the Spiritualists] maintain that these manifestations are all produced by the "spirits" of departed mortals, generally their relatives, who return to earth, they say, to communicate with those they have loved or to whom they are attached. We deny this point blank. We assert that the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth — save in rare and exceptional cases, of which I may speak later; nor do they communicate with men except by entirely subjective means. That which does appear objectively is only the phantom of the ex-physical man. — pp. 27-8

(For further information upon the subject of so-called "spirit-return" see also Isis Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. I of her Complete Writings, G. de Purucker in his Occult Glossary, W. Q. Judge in The Ocean of Theosophy, and other manuals of this series.)

In the few cases of true intercommunion between the dead and the living to which she refers briefly in the same section, she says:

it is not the spirits of the dead who descend on earth, but spirits of the living that ascend to the pure Spiritual Souls. In truth there is neither ascending nor descending, but a change of state or condition. . . . — Op. cit., p. 30

And in speaking of genuine communion — not "communication" — with the departed she tells us very significantly in the same passage:

there is hardly a human being whose Ego does not hold free intercourse, during the sleep of his body, with those whom it loved and lost, yet, on account of the positiveness and non-receptivity of its physical envelope and brain, no recollection, or a very dim, dream-like remembrance, lingers in the memory of the person once awake. -- Ibid. (italics ours)

In the foregoing passages are several suggestions which are illuminating when we think them over. The expressions "objective" and "subjective" and "a change of state or condition," for example, contain the key to true communion with our dead. They emphasize the fact that spiritual clairvoyance — not astral or psychic — belongs to our inner or subjective nature, and has naught to do with the senses, either physical or astral. This applies to mediums and sensitives as well as to ordinary humanity. The difference between the two kinds of manifestations are easily discernible, the objective, or psychic, being misleading and demoralizing, while the subjective is so often fraught with the deepest spiritual benefit.

An incident can be given which illustrates this; it happened to a friend and is one of many which could be cited. A mother died leaving to her young daughter the care of five children. The grief of the young girl and her sense of responsibility were intense, and she brooded over them to the point of illness. One night as she was falling asleep she suddenly saw before her two great portals which, as she gazed, opened slowly, to reveal a glorious vision of beauty and peace. In the opening stood the form of her mother, but transfigured with light. And to the daughter came her mother's beloved voice bidding her grieve no longer, for her grief troubled her mother's rest. Well did the wise mother-heart realize the strength of such an appeal! It aroused at a touch the unselfish courage and willpower of her child. When the young girl awoke, her grief had vanished and she felt within her heart the power to carry forward joyfully the task which her mother's death had placed in her hands.

This is but one of many such occurrences, experienced by people of all ages, creeds, and nationalities. But they are in the great majority of cases a phenomenon of the dream state which, remember, has its analogy to the devachan. They are purely subjective, and frequently have as their result some moral effect upon the recipient.

There are, in contrast, those occasional times when almost immediately after death the form of the departed appears visually to some relative who is wide awake at the time. This is an instance of an "objective" manifestation. Such an occurrence seems generally to indicate that the departed was tormented with some worry before death, at a time when the body was beyond speech. Such an apparition, as in a case known to the writer, led to the discovery of a sum of money which had been concealed by the departed and never mentioned to his relatives. In this case his double returned automatically to the spot where the money was hidden and the daughter who saw it divined what the difficulty was and discovered the money. But in many cases the shell is so vague in its movements, or those who see it are so frightened or confused, that nothing comes of it. For in this type of appearance it is not the ego which returns but a phantom of the deceased, strongly energized into postmortem activity by the agonized regrets of the deceased. Its discarded kama-rupa is so instinct with the mental disturbance of its departed tenant that it is irresistibly projected into the scene of the ego's last thoughts.

This latter type of apparition is, relatively speaking, accidental, and is far removed in every way from the spiritual condition and influence of the ego itself, as depicted in the first instance given. One might say, without much exaggeration, that those who are never conscious of after-death communion — not communication, note — with their departed are either ignorantly or willfully shutting themselves outside the high sphere in which their loved ones now are existing. Grief is often very self-centered and careless of its influence on those who are gone, and such grieving will inevitably raise a barrier between us and our happy dead. They are in the care of the spiritual self, at rest and sheltered under the shield of its protecting light. Only the pure vibrations of our selfless attunement to them, and to the ideal conditions of life in which they are isolated from material things, will penetrate the veils which are between us, and give a sure and abiding sense of their serene existence in devachan, the heaven-world. And only so may we prove for ourselves that we can never be really separated from our departed loved ones, nor forgotten by them in their happy rest.


Chapter 6

A Glance Backward

In order to round out the teachings of theosophy as to afterdeath states, let us, before passing on, consider such exceptions as accidental death, capital punishment, and suicide. These bring new conditions for our study. It has already been suggested that the same states of consciousness exist as well before death as afterward. But we are not definitely aware of them as such because they are all interblended and working within us as more or less one state of psychological activity — composite in reality of course, but not seeming so to the person who unites them into one tissue of existence.

After death, when the spiritual self has departed, this tissue separates into its components — just as the chemical elements combine to make a physical body, with a unified and definite awareness of itself and its functions but after death splitting up, and the definite physical consciousness vanishing. That which makes our psychological states one tissue is the selfhood; what breaks them up is the departure of this selfhood, the spiritual self.

But what if the Self does not depart, even though the physical body dies and is dissolved away?

When a person is born his constitution may be compared to a clock wound up to run for a certain length of time. If an injury be wrought to the clockwork it will stop running before that time, but not otherwise. Science recognizes that every organism has its time limit or vitality period, so to say. We understand that each human being has within him a reservoir of vitality upon which he draws when passing through some abnormal strain, such as a dangerous fever or a stretch of agonizing anxiety. We say that such experiences are a drain upon the vitality.

This reservoir of vitality is the vital-psychological part of us. Vitality and instinctual willpower keep us alive. But these, theosophy declares, do not originate with the physical body. They depend of course upon the body for expression in earth-life, but they do not originate there. They are therefore not destroyed at the death of the body, for they do not pass away until their own energy, which determines their term of durance, is exhausted.

In the case, therefore, of accidental or premature death the only thing that suffers dissolution is the body. For the time has not yet come when in the natural course of things the spiritual self has felt its periodic evolutionary pull to the invisible worlds. The human attractions which tied it to life on earth are by no means exhausted. The pendulum of earth experience has not yet passed through its appointed arc of movement.

What then has happened? A complete human entity, minus only the physical body, is left in the kama-loka to pass through its appointed arc of existence in that sphere, instead of normally in earth-life.

The words "accidental death" have been used. But there is in reality no such thing as accident. It may so appear to us because we see nothing of the inner causes which led up to it. But theosophy teaches that moral justice rules the universe. A man is not here now on earth for the first time. He has lived many other lives on this globe, and it was his thoughts or actions in those past human lives which made him what he is today. If he is run down by a speeding automobile, or falls over a cliff, it is because he himself, in this or a former life, laid the train of causes which resulted in that accident. He himself has done things which led him to the precise spot or circumstances where that "accident" could overtake him. So that accidental death is in reality a part of his karma, a consequence flowing from past actions done by himself. Nevertheless, his karma has cut him off prematurely from earth-life, and this very cutting-off by so-called "accident" is a part of the unfavorable karma he has built up for himself by past failures.

What happens then in the case of so-called accidental death? This will depend, naturally, upon the man himself. If his life has been saturated with the base desire elements, of which the lower planes of kama-loka consist, to those lower elements will he gravitate. And the very identity of his consciousness with them will keep him alive there. Just to the extent that he has been selfish or has cultivated his animal appetites will he be keenly alive in this lower mental sphere which is so close to physical existence. But he will be able to feel only the cravings of the appetites themselves — he will have no body with which to gratify them. From what all good men would rightly regard as his hell of selfishness on earth he will pass to a genuine hell of mental torment in kama-loka.

When we remember the criminally-minded in every land put suddenly out of life through capital punishment, we can realize how potent a force for evil we are letting loose in the thought-atmosphere of humanity. These disimbodied, but still living, human beings keep alive in humanity's mental sphere thoughts of hatred and revenge as well as base desires and appetites. Such conditions in the world's thought-atmosphere must hold back the spiritual progress of all those who are in sympathy with them. Is it any wonder that most types of social reforms find progress such an uphill discouragement? And it is significant that a diminution of crime is often observed to follow where capital punishment has been abandoned.

But of course there is also the brighter side of the picture. Fortunately, even the average among us are very different from the case above pictured. When accidental death comes to a person whose life is marked by integrity and helpfulness, he will have little in his psychological nature in common with this lower kama-loka. There will be nothing, therefore, to keep him awake, so to say, in those lower spheres. He will fall into a prolonged slumber — the same state which he would pass through in a shorter form at normal death. All his life through he has lived in a measure of harmony — even if unconsciously — with his spiritual self; and that self as a natural consequence can shed over him its protection, drawing him into its own divine and waiting peace. So he slumbers until that moment comes when his spiritual self feels the call, the urge, to depart into its own inner realms.

Then the psychological sifting process, the "second death," sets in. That part of the psychological nature at rest in the higher regions of the kama-loka is absorbed by the reincarnating ego and the lower breaks up and dissolves into its component elements.

The two instances above are given as typical cases. Different aspects of the general condition have been thus described by Dr. de Purucker:

Kama-loka is for every man or woman on Earth. But there are as many different kinds of kama-lokic existences as there are existences on earth; and the average man or woman passes through the Kama-loka scarcely realizing it. A very bad, a very evil, man or woman, on the contrary, has a keen realization of where he is in the Kama-loka; and there are cases where the suffering is simply awful. But it is a mental suffering. . . . In the case of very good men or women, they pass through the Kama-loka and they don't know that they have done it. There is no break of the unconsciousness that merciful Nature brings to us at the moment of death: there is no break in that unconsciousness until the Devachan [the Heaven-world] with its roseate beauty is entered. . . .
The excarnate entity, the person who dies, remains in the Kama-loka just as long as his karmic deserts call for his being there, and not one instant longer. — The Theosophical Forum, February 1933, p. 176

And in the case of accidental death:

. . . when the time is reached which would have been the normal life of the physical body, then there is an awakening in the Kama-loka and a following out of the simple processes of kama-lokic freeing that occur to all men. . . . Kama-loka is not so terrible, except for those who are genuinely wicked; and there are places on our physical earth which are terrible for men who are wicked and who are caught. — Op. cit., p. 174

Suicide is the most unfortunate of all forms of violent death. This is because it means

the deliberate taking of one's own life in order to escape the consequences of what one has earned; and if any man thinks that he can cheat Nature in that way, he greatly errs. He but adds to the heavy burden he has to carry in the future. . . . He has deliberately forced Nature's hand, so to say; he has deliberately exercised his own will-power and consciousness for an unholy deed in an unnatural way, and done an act which Nature, through its unerring laws, has not itself brought about; and when you break a law of Nature, what happens? — G. de Purucker, Questions We All Ask, Series I, No. 6

The answer is briefly given:

The fate of the suicide is a sad one, indeed a terrible one, and it is good and right that the truth concerning suicide be told. The suicide wilfully cuts short the life that Nature, as we Theosophists say, intended to be longer, and he has thus placed himself in a postmortem condition in which he must live and suffer greatly until the term of his lifetime, had he lived on earth, is closed. The fate of the suicide is an awful one. -- Op. cit., Series II, No. 19

The whole point is indicated here in the statement that the suicide willfully cuts short the life that karma intended to be longer. In other forms of violent death, the accident or crime or execution, as the case may be, was karmic. In suffering such a misfortune the human being is paying his "karmic price." Suffering the consequences of his own actions in the past, he thus wipes the karmic slate clean of that particular debt.

But the suicide, by his act of selfishly shirking the consequences of his failures in this life and — as frequently happens — leaving the burden to be borne by others, has set in motion for himself a fresh cause of misery. In his next life he will have to meet again the same conditions which led to his suicide in this, only in a form intensified by the very energy of his refusal to meet them now. Every act of ours is made up of energy and with every intensification of energy the consequences deepen. So the last state of that person will indeed be worse than the first.

The postmortem state of the person who takes his own life is the terrible one of living over and over again the horror of his act and the mental torture which led up to it. Suicides, like executed criminals, must in most cases become powerful vortices of diseased thought-energy adding their force to the existing handicaps to the spiritual progress of the world.

It is good to remember, however, that these cases of misfortune which we have been discussing are but an infinitesimal proportion of the great mass of human beings. By far the greatest number of accidental deaths are of people who have been living kindly and normal lives, and their postmortem conditions cannot for that reason be anything but peaceful. And reincarnation, by giving everyone "another chance" in life after life, leads each person to achieve at last his own redemption.

We may appropriately close this chapter with these further words from Dr. de Purucker:

Every time when you are in intense suffering, mental suffering I mean, if it is something especially which involves the elements of remorse, of intense contrition, that is kama-loka; and you are then in kama-loka even while alive in the physical body. See the lesson to be drawn from this. You see why H. P. Blavatsky was so anxious that the teaching regarding the kama-loka and the Devachan should be broadcast among men as a warning, if only as a warning. Live a decent life, a cleanly, manly, or womanly life, and you need not bother your head about Kama-loka; you need not think twice about it; you won't know anything about it; you will just pass through it like a meteor, but so to speak upwards. — G. de Purucker, The Theosophical Forum, February 1933, p. 177

Chapter 7

Death and the Monad

The death of those we love and the prospect of our own passing is so intimate to each one of us that we easily overlook the wider and really more important experiences which death brings to spiritual man. But theosophy, being an explanation of the facts of existence, directs our attention to this wider view; for what we call death, and the states of living which follow it, are of the utmost importance to the evolution of the individual and of humanity.

Theosophy maintains that the problems of life can never be solved until our researchers realize that the secret of all life lies in the invisible rather than in the physical universe. Scientists themselves are beginning to suspect this, one of them, Professor J. Y. Simpson, the Edinburgh Professor of Natural Sciences, having made this significant statement:

With physico-chemical instruments and methods it is difficult to see how you can get anything but physico-chemical results, and when applied to the investigation of life, such practice constitutes no proof accordingly that there is nothing in the characteristics of life beyond what admits of physico-chemical expression. Further, the assumption that mind, which devises all the experimentation, can itself be the product of analogous physico-chemical happenings, seems altogether too heavy for the premises to bear. — The Listener, March 8, 1933

Let us supplement this negatively important point of view by the positive side as expressed by Dr. de Purucker:

To know the exterior Universe, you must have brought into functional activity within yourself the knower. . . . To understand the Universe you must have the understanding heart, the faculty of understanding. Do you get the idea? Consequently, while the scientists, for instance, are doing marvelous work, . . . nevertheless where they fail is just on the point that they themselves are not seers, not genuine understanders of what they themselves discover. You must cultivate your inner self. -- The Theosophical Forum, April, 1933, p. 230

The secret of evolution is to be sought therefore in the inner nature of man and in the invisible worlds of which our visible universe is but the physical evidence as the human body is the visible evidence of its invisible but causal self, its monad.

Let us remember here what we mean by the monad, as already explained in Chapter 3: a monad is a unit of consciousness, an indestructible unit of individuality. There is a monad at the heart of every being from an atom to a sun. In an atom the monad is far less evolved than is the monad of a human being, which has begun to be fully self-conscious. The monad at the heart of a sun has evolved to the state of godhood. In ourselves we can regard the monad as our spiritual self.

All evolution is produced by monads. The monads which now comprise the human kingdom began their evolution in past ages by each one shaping for itself a vehicle in each of the lower planes and kingdoms — first the mineral and the vegetable; then it evolves a beast nature with a physical body; and at last unfolds the potencies from within itself which we call the egoic consciousness or the self-conscious ego. The kingdoms of nature beneath the human are made up of monads which have not yet evolved self-consciousness. So that, speaking roughly, we are at present a monad or spiritual self (atma-buddhi) expressing itself through a self-conscious, reincarnating ego (manas, dual — higher and lower); and these again act through a lower triad (kama, a model-body, and a physical body, with prana their breath of life).

The entire purpose of this evolutionary journey through all the kingdoms is twofold: first, to enable the monad to gain the fruits of self-consciousness on lower planes than its own spiritual one; then to aid the evolution of the life-atoms — each with its own ensouling monad — which form its various vehicles on the different planes of evolution, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. And we must understand something of this process of evolution, its purpose and objectives, if we would understand the sublimest of all the mysteries of death.

Man has at the core of him the god within, which is not himself but is his root and spiritual parent, the monad from which he draws unconsciously his spiritual vitality. This divine being within is our inspirer, protector, and guiding star, the voice of compassion and of conscience within our human hearts. Its holy light awakens within us all our ideals and true aspirations. Without its surrounding, all-penetrating presence we poor human egos would soon perish like fragile moths scorched in the hot flame of material delusion.

The monad, then, is a part of ourselves or, rather, we are a part of it, and yet it is not ourselves. We cannot exist apart from it because it is our link or channel of communion with the universal cosmic life.

Now the monad is itself an individual on its own (to us) invisible plane of existence. At times, when we have perhaps gone momentarily beyond the limitations of our daily selves — through some action of unselfish love, an effort of intense self-discipline, or a strong aspiration toward the divine within ourselves — in such a moment a vibration of freedom, insight, pure happiness or peace may take possession of us. For a time we breathe the ether of a purer world, and all things seem possible to us. This is the light of the god within, the monad. Upon the closed door of its realm of spiritual illumination that thought or action acted as a pressure and the door swung briefly open to release a ray of glory into the uplifted heart.

Thus the god within us has its own spiritual world. There it too lives, and experiences, and grows, the while it over-illumines the reincarnating ego in its journey through the shadows of earth-life. Its own realm lies in that causal divine world of which this physical sphere is the outer garment or vehicle.

Little use in one's asking, "Where is this inner, invisible world?" One might as well say to the invisible self of a friend, "Where are you?"meaning the mental-spiritual person who is the real friend of one's heart. For the spiritual inner world exists on a different plane, in a different state of matter, vibrates to another scale of existence than this one that we see around us.

We must remember our composite nature: body, ego, spirit-self. Each of these three, as we have seen, must be again divided for accurate study, making seven principles or elements in all. So also the planetary world through which we evolve is sevenfold, there being seven globes to a planetary chain of evolution, of which our earth is the physical and the lowest globe, being the only one we can see, and corresponding by analogy with man's physical body. (For a fuller explanation of our Earth-chain of globes the inquirer should read The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, 1:136 et seq., and The Ocean of Theosophy by W. Q. Judge.)

Every planet in space is likewise sevenfold — is accompanied by six other, but to us invisible planets. So that, if we had the proper organ of inner sight, we could look at night deep within the starry universe above us to envision a countless host of more ethereal worlds, within and ever within the outer spaces. It is these inner, more ethereal worlds which are the causal ones, the roots of the physical universe, in the same way that our spiritual self is the root of our visible being.

H. P. Blavatsky tells us about these worlds:

the occultist does not locate these spheres either outside or inside our Earth, as the theologians and the poets do; for their location is nowhere in the space known to, and conceived by, the profane. They are, as it were, blended with our world — interpenetrating it and interpenetrated by it. There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there are still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective sphere of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us . . . each is entirely under its own special laws and conditions, having no direct relation to our sphere. . . .
Nevertheless, such invisible worlds do exist. Inhabited as thickly as our own is, they are scattered throughout apparent Space in immense number; some far more material than our own world, others gradually etherealizing until they become formless and are as "Breaths." That our physical eye does not see them, is no reason to disbelieve in them; physicists can see neither their ether, atoms, nor "modes of motion," or Forces. Yet they accept and teach them. . . .
But, if we can conceive of a world composed (for our senses) of matter still more attenuated than the tail of a comet, hence of inhabitants in it who are as ethereal, in proportion to their globe, as we are in comparison with our rocky, hard-crusted earth, no wonder if we do not perceive them, nor sense their presence or even existence. -- The Secret Doctrine 1:605-7

In the higher and innermost reaches of these invisible worlds dwells the monad, the human spiritual self. Yet that fact, as can be seen from the above quotation, does not make it absent from us. No more are the real egos of our friends absent from us although we can see only their physical bodies. We must learn, as already said, to think of living beings more in terms of consciousness than we now do. The human spiritual self is a being of pure consciousness imbodied in its buddhic vehicle or garment; the ego is an intellectual center of consciousness imbodied in a personal-animal vehicle; the lower triad is likewise compounded of elementary consciousness imbodied in astral-physical shape. And all these are blended into one by their common origin in the monad at the heart of them all.

So we see that these different centers form, during earth-life, one being. If it seems a strange thought that the god within us is evolving on its own plane continuously, we can better understand by recalling that the mind and the body are also developing simultaneously on two different planes, one of which is invisible to our outer senses. Each principle or element in us over-illumines and helps the one immediately beneath it. As the lower advances in evolution it gives a greater liberty of action to the consciousness-centers above it, as a man who has subdued his bodily appetites is free of them; one who has not is in some degree their slave. And this is true in a far greater degree of the vices of the mind and emotions. Free ourselves of them and the whole nature advances to a larger and deeper kind of activity. And conversely, no one can think a thought or commit an action that does not influence for good or ill the countless lower lives of his own organism that his consciousness interpenetrates. The effect of our vices upon our physical health is one instance of this. And to complete the thought, our daily thoughts and actions help or retard the spiritual evolution of our higher principles, whose wider ranges of consciousness interpenetrate and inspire our ordinary human selves. Thus there is an evolutionary interaction throughout all planes of being.

Death is the great friend which releases our spiritual self from its encasement in the heavy gross matter of physical earth, while it opens for the weary human soul the beautiful portal into spiritual self-fulfillment and peace.


Section 3

Contents